Deep schooling challenges face L.A. college board candidates


Two candidates vying for a Los Angeles college board seat that has been held for 16 years by termed-out Monica Garcia provide distinct views on how high-poverty faculties must be funded and the way the board ought to discover the best stability of regulation for charters.

The runoff between Rocio Rivas, a senior aide to highschool board member Jackie Goldberg, and Maria Brenes, the longtime director of the native group InnerCity Wrestle, has drawn in two unions and a pair of businessmen who’ve hurled about $7.8 million into the race to characterize a district that features downtown and Boyle Heights.

In one other race, within the east San Fernando Valley, college board president Kelly Gonez is thrust right into a run-off towards highschool Spanish instructor Marvin Rodriguez. Gonez has an enormous benefit in marketing campaign assets.

All 4 candidates pledge to handle a dizzying array of challenges — declining enrollment, teen drug abuse, college safety issues, pandemic setbacks and large achievement gaps affecting Black and Latino college students — and have strikingly related views on many points.

Nevertheless it’s largely their stance on the years-old debate over constitution faculties — plus the extent of backing they’ve obtained from unions — that’s fueling the {dollars} pouring into each races forward of the Nov. 8 election.

District 2

Rocio Rivas, a senior aide to highschool board member Jackie Goldberg, and Maria Brenes, director of the advocacy and family-services group InnerCity Wrestle, are battling to exchange Monica Garcia.

District 2 contains downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, particularly to the east.

Rivas, 49, is the chosen candidate of the United Lecturers Los Angeles union. Brenes, 46, has benefited from an impartial marketing campaign funded by main supporters of constitution faculties. These donors launched a damaging marketing campaign towards Rivas, calling her a “bureaucrat” and claiming, with out proof, that she needs to shut faculties and lay off lecturers.

One distinction between the candidates may have an effect on the assets out there to each college within the nation’s second-largest system.

Brenes has lengthy been a part of a coalition pushing for a large redistribution of district funding. The members need rising assist for faculties they’ve recognized as serving the scholars most in want. The coalition, which incorporates Catalyst California, Group Coalition and Partnership for Los Angeles Colleges, has had some success however needs the redistribution accelerated.

“Budgets mirror values,” Brenes mentioned. The components that activists developed to information the redistribution “has been essential” in starting to reverse previous inequities, she mentioned. “We’ve got to determine how will we institutionalize these {dollars} for the long run in these investments.”

Whereas the lecturers union has usually endorsed focused spending, its leaders even have strongly supported a base degree of funding for each college so that every has the assets for class-size discount, a librarian and a nurse.

Rivas declined to be interviewed. Nevertheless, she spoke at size earlier this yr about how she sees each ideas as important: She would really like the advocates to win the precedence spending wanted by struggling faculties with out sacrificing packages at different faculties.

Rivas appears to be like to elevated state funding as the answer.

However the coalition of which Brenes is a component has made it clear that it’s unwilling to attend for cash for all. Colleges with better-off households, it has mentioned, can elevate their very own funds if wanted. The precedence needs to be doing no matter it takes to treatment generational poverty and intensely low educational achievement.

This distinction hasn’t mattered not too long ago, as a result of faculties have been flooded with funding from one-time COVID reduction funds and report state tax income. Nevertheless, it’s not clear what’s going to occur when a recession hits or budgets need to be lower for different causes.

Brenes’ election may stress L.A. faculties Supt. Alberto Carvalho to shift extra spending to the colleges with the best want — and away from others.

Equally, the election of Rivas may stress Carvalho to simply accept lecturers union proposals as bargaining continues over a brand new contract. The union needs a 20% elevate over two years.

One other union has entered the fray with an enormous spending play. Native 99 of Service Workers Worldwide Union — whose members embody custodians, meals service staff, instructor aides and bus drivers — additionally has a negotiating agenda and is supporting Brenes.

Within the June major, Rivas completed with 44% of the vote and Brenes had 30% in a subject of 4.

Except Native 99, the marketing campaign spending considerably displays the divide between the lecturers union and supporters of charters, that are privately operated public faculties and principally nonunion. About 1 in 5 district college students attends a constitution.

Just like the lecturers union that backs her, Rivas sees charters as a part of an organized effort to weaken and diminish the worth of conventional public schooling and push schooling into the personal and for-profit area.

“Seeing the charter-school trade and privatization and the way they’re actually going after our public faculties and altering what public schooling is … that’s what’s actually driving me,” mentioned Rivas. “As a result of I used to be seeing the greed in privatization. I see what these billionaires need to do to our faculties, and I’m standing firmly towards that.”

Rivas opposes having charters share area on campuses with district-run faculties — although underneath state regulation, there could also be little she will do about it.

Brenes additionally opposes opening new charters in District 2, citing declining enrollment, however mentioned mother and father in any respect varieties of public faculties “need a voice — they need to be heard, their concepts taken into consideration.”

Brenes has raised $535,438, whereas Rivas has raised $98,713. Constitution supporters determine prominently amongst those that have backed Brenes, though she has a broad base of assist, together with from unions apart from UTLA.

Unbiased spending on behalf of Brenes has surpassed $4.5 million. It comes primarily from two sources: Native 99 and a political motion committee funded by Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who’s a constitution college supporter, and retired businessman Invoice Bloomfield.

The lecturers union has spent greater than $2.4 million on behalf of Rivas.

About $181,000 has been spent within the damaging marketing campaign towards Rivas by Hastings and Bloomfield.

Earlier than saying her bid for workplace, Brenes served on town redistricting committee as an appointee of the mayor. The method has come underneath scrutiny within the wake of a leaked recording containing racist remarks by then-Los Angeles Metropolis Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. Martinez and Herrera have since resigned.

Brenes has joined different college board candidates in calling for the resignation of all concerned.

Brenes’ husband, Luis Sanchez, chaired the committee that oversaw the redrawing of faculty district boundaries. Her residence was not affected by the up to date maps.

District 6

In District 6, Marvin Rodriguez is making an attempt to unseat Kelly Gonez, who was first elected as college board president in 2017.

Rodriguez, 43, mentioned he would carry to the board the good thing about 17 years of educating expertise and talks of the enjoyment of driving together with his daughter to highschool day by day. A Marine corps fight veteran, he additionally trains college students to run the L.A. Marathon. He mentioned he would join higher with the group than Gonez does.

“The truth is that our communities don’t want saving,” he mentioned. “Our communities want leaders who need to speak to us, expertise the hardships, expertise our struggles and collectively say, ‘Hey, we received it. We’re gonna get by this collectively.’”

Rodriguez additionally mentioned Gonez ought to perform her job with extra transparency and accessibility.

Gonez, 34, whose oldest youngster is simply beginning college, cites her broad expertise in authorities, together with on the college board and within the U.S. Division of Training in the course of the Obama administration. She additionally taught center college for a number of years.

As successes, she cited extra college students in Superior Placement programs and dual-language packages and the general pandemic response — together with offering computer systems, web and a meal program and insisting on strict well being protocols that saved Los Angeles campuses closed till spring 2021.

“The district stepped up in a historic manner,” Gonez mentioned, notable for “the robustness of our response and the compassion of our response.”

Gonez was instrumental within the hiring of Carvalho, the longtime chief of the Miami-Dade college system.

Each Gonez and Rodriguez burdened the urgency of specializing in incomes restoration.

Gonez has collected all the foremost endorsements, together with that of the lecturers union. With $500,000 raised, she has a fundraising benefit of 47 to 1. As well as, Native 99 and the PAC of Hastings and Bloomfield have mixed to spend near $400,000 on her behalf.

Rodriguez has raised $10,635.

Within the June major, Gonez had 48% of the vote, and Rodriguez had 31% in a subject of three.

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